9 Best Targeted Quadratus Lumborum Exercises For Lower Back

quadratus lumborum exercises

The quadratus lumborum muscle, often abbreviated to the QL, is a deep lower back muscle that runs down either side of the body.  

It can often be a source of lower back pain especially when it’s overworked causing it to become tight. 

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In this article, we’ll be recommending some quadratus lumborum exercises and stretches to release and strengthen this muscle helping to relieve low back pain.  

Why Is The Quadratus Lumborum Important

The quadratus lumborum is a fundamental component of the core muscles, spanning from the top of your pelvis to the lumbar vertebrae, and extending to the bottom of the rib cage at the lowest rib. 

Positioned on both sides of your spine in the lower back region, the QL muscle plays an important role.  

It’s primarily engaged in side bending movements and assists in the extension of the lumbar region, facilitating the motion required to lean backward.  

Its strategic location and function mean that it’s a significant muscle in maintaining good posture and facilitating a range of movements encountered during many daily activities.

It also plays a vital role in breathing by stabilizing the bottom rib (your 12th rib) during inhalation and exhalation.  

As your diaphragm contracts and flattens during inhalation, your bottom rib expands outward.

The quadratus lumborum helps to maintain the position of the bottom rib, ensuring efficient expansion of the rib cage and helping you to take deeper breathes.

This coordinated action allows for optimal lung capacity and respiratory function.  

What Are Common Signs Of A Tight Or Weak Quadratus Lumborum

Identifying whether you have tight or weak quadratus lumborum (QL) muscles can be challenging, given their deep-set position within the lower back.

When attempting to assess tight QL muscles, pressing directly may inadvertently target superficial back muscles instead, complicating the evaluation process.  

However, common signs of a tight or weak quadratus lumborum tend to include discomfort or sharp pain in the lower back, especially when standing for long periods or engaging in physical activity. 

lower back pain

QL tightness can sometimes result in stiffness when bending sideways or difficulty in maintaining a straight posture.  

On one side of your body, there could be a noticeable imbalance or pulling sensation, which often indicates a tight or weak QL muscle. 

Weakness to the quadratus lumborum could make stabilizing your core more difficult, leading to a higher risk of back injuries or strains during everyday movements.

If one side feels tighter or more painful than the other, it could be a sign that your QL is out of balance, affecting your overall comfort and mobility.

What Are The Best Quadratus Lumborum Exercises For Strength

It’s important to note that the ql muscle cannot be stretched or contracted in isolation because other muscles and ligaments share its main functions.  

However, the good news is that there are some specific exercises and stretches that can help to reduce quadratus lumborum pain and lower the risk of injury to your lower back.  

Side Plank with Hip Drop

The Side Plank with Hip Drop is an advanced variation of the traditional side plank that specifically targets the stability and strength of the quadratus lumborum, obliques, and other core muscles. 

By adding the dynamic movement of dropping the hip towards the floor and lifting it, this exercise not only challenges the QL but also engages the glutes and hip abductors, enhancing lateral stability and core endurance.

  1. Lie on your side with your legs extended and stack your feet one on top of the other.
  2. Prop yourself up onto your forearm, keeping your elbow aligned under your shoulder.
  3. Lift your hips off the ground, forming a straight line from your head to your feet.
  4. Slowly lower your hips just above the floor, then raise them back to the initial plank position.
  5. Perform this movement smoothly for 8-12 repetitions, then switch to work the opposite side.

Standing Side Stretch

The Standing Side Stretch is a simple yet effective way to elongate and release tension from your quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi, and intercostal muscles.

By extending the arm overhead and gently leaning to the opposite side, this quadratus lumborum stretch is an easy way to encourage flexibility and provide relief in the side of the trunk.  

Over time, it can help to improve your posture and reduce the risk of lower back discomfort.

  1. Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart and your core engaged.
  2. Reach your right arm straight up above your head, and then gently lean to the left side.
  3. Push your right hip outwards to enhance the stretch along the right side of your body.
  4. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds, feeling a continuous stretch from your fingertips down to your hip.
  5. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.

Seated Spinal Twist

This is one of our favorite ql stretches helping to promote spinal mobility and flexibility in the thoracic and lumbar regions.

By twisting your torso, this movement not only stretches the back muscles but also stimulates the abdominal organs, helping to improve digestion and circulation.

The Seated Spinal Twist is ideal for releasing tightness in the lower back and enhancing overall spinal health.

  1. Start by sitting on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of you.
  2. Bend your right knee and place your right foot on the outside of your left knee.
  3. Place your right hand behind you for support and place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee.
  4. Carefully and slowly twist your torso to the right, looking over your right shoulder to deepen the twist.
  5. Maintain this position for 20-30 seconds, focusing on elongating your spine with each breath.
  6. Slowly return to the center before switching sides.

Bird Dog

The Bird Dog exercise is a classic core stabilizer that targets multiple muscle groups, including the quadratus lumborum, erector spinae, and glutes.

This exercise helps improve balance, coordination, and spinal stability, making it an excellent choice for strengthening your entire posterior chain.

  1. Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, with your wrists aligned under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  2. Engage your core and extend your right arm forward while simultaneously lifting your left leg straight back behind you.
  3. Keep your hips and shoulders square to the ground, avoiding any rotation or tilting.
  4. Hold this position briefly, then return to the starting position and switch sides.
  5. Perform 8-12 repetitions on each side, focusing on maintaining proper form throughout.

Dumbbell Side Bends

Dumbbell Side Bends specifically target the quadratus lumborum and oblique muscles, helping to strengthen the lateral core and improve your trunk stability.

By using dumbbells for resistance, this exercise effectively challenges the QL muscles while promoting better posture and alignment of your spine. 

  1. From a standing position place your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in one hand.
  2. Keep your core engaged and slowly bend sideways towards the opposite side, lowering the weight as far as comfortably possible.
  3. Focus on keeping your spine straight and avoiding any twisting or bending forward.
  4. Use your oblique muscles to lift your torso back to the starting position.
  5. Perform 8-12 repetitions on each side, ensuring equal work for both quadratus lumborum muscles.

Roman Chair Side Bends

The Roman Chair Side Bend is an isolation exercise that targets the quadratus lumborum and oblique muscles while also engaging the lower back and hip stabilizers.

This exercise is performed using a Roman chair or hyperextension bench, providing support for your lower back and allowing for a greater range of motion.  

  1. Position yourself sideways on the Roman chair with your hips and waist supported by the pads and your feet secured.
  2. Hold a weight plate or dumbbell in one hand, allowing it to hang towards the floor.
  3. Slowly lower your torso sideways towards the ground, maintaining control and feeling a stretch along the side of your body.
  4. Use your oblique muscles to lift your torso back to the starting position.
  5. Perform 8-12 repetitions on each side, focusing on smooth and controlled movements.

Prone Superman

The Prone Superman exercise is a great low back movement that targets your erector spinae, glutes, and quadratus lumborum muscles to improve lower back strength and overall core stability.

By lifting both the upper and lower body off the ground at the same time, it helps counteract the effects of prolonged sitting and strengthens the muscles responsible for maintaining good posture.

  1. Lie face down on a mat with your arms extended overhead and your legs straight.
  2. Brace your abdominal muscles and lift both your arms and legs off the ground simultaneously, aiming to create a straight line from your fingertips to your toes.
  3. Hold this position for a few seconds, focusing on squeezing your glutes and engaging your lower back muscles.
  4. Slowly lower back down to the starting position and repeat for 8-12 repetitions, maintaining proper form throughout.

Glute Bridge

The Glute Bridge exercise primarily targets the glutes but also engages the quadratus lumborum and lower back muscles as they work hard to stabilize your pelvis and spine.

By lifting the hips off the ground, this exercise strengthens the posterior chain and improves hip extension, helping to alleviate lower back pain and improve overall athletic performance.

glute bridge exercise for glutes
  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
  2. Brace your core and squeeze your glutes as you raise your hips towards the ceiling, so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  3. Hold the bridge position for a few seconds, focusing on maintaining tension in your glutes and avoiding overarching your lower back.
  4. Slowly lower your hips back down to the ground and repeat for 12-15 repetitions, keeping your movements controlled and deliberate.

Jefferson Curls

Jefferson Curls are a dynamic flexibility exercise that targets the entire posterior chain, including the quadratus lumborum, hamstrings, and spinal erectors.

By performing a controlled forward bend with a weighted barbell or dumbbell, this exercise helps improve spinal mobility, flexibility, and strength, making it an effective rehabilitation and injury prevention exercise for the lower back.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a light barbell or dumbbell in front of your thighs.
  2. Slowly round your spine and roll down towards the ground, allowing the weight to guide your movement.
  3. Focus on articulating each vertebra as you descend, aiming to stretch the back of your legs and lower back.
  4. Once you reach the bottom of the movement, slowly reverse the motion and return to the starting position.
  5. Perform 8-10 repetitions, gradually increasing the weight and range of motion as your flexibility improves.

There are a variety of ways of releasing and strengthening your QL muscle, and by incorporating some of our recommended ql exercises and stretches into your workout routine, you can significantly improve the strength, flexibility, and health of your quadratus lumborum muscles, contributing to overall back health and posture.

Wrapping Up

It’s clear that a strong ql muscle plays a pivotal role in our core strength, posture, and the overall health of our backs.  

There are a variety of ways of releasing and strengthening your QL muscle, and by incorporating some of our recommended ql exercises and stretches into your workout routine, you can significantly improve the strength, flexibility, and health of your quadratus lumborum muscles.  

In time, they can also contribute to overall back health and posture while making you less prone to injury. 

Whether you’re an athlete looking to enhance your performance, someone aiming to improve posture and alleviate associated back pain, or you’re just interested in maintaining a healthy and balanced body, focusing on the quadratus lumborum is a step in the right direction.

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